Monday, June 22, 2009

New Beginning 652

The black cane whapped against the counter in front of me and I dropped my bowl of cereal. At least it was sans milk.

“You’re next.” Marcus let the cane tip fall to the floor. “And you’re running out of time.”

I surveyed my older brother sitting there in his kitchen chair; acting like he ruled this family; and not apologizing one bit for the mess he created. “Marcus Willby, you are deranged.”

“Don’t call me that.” His lower lip pushed out beyond his wispy moustache. He shuttered his big brown eyes, and leaned his head back. His mouth creaked open. His breath rattled in the back of his throat.

That was it. Audience over. Begging on street corners had seriously mushed his brain. I shook my head and swept up the mess before Mom came down and added her bit to the insanity. Just because Marcus broke his leg – in thirteen places – when he turned thirteen didn’t mean I would do the same. I was not my brother. I glanced at him again. Nope. Not even close. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the trash can.

I thought about the past few years. Marcus had broken all ten fingers when he was ten, all eleven toes when he was eleven, and last year broke his hip in twelve places. Tomorrow he would turn fourteen and the curse would jump to me. That's what the old Gypsy woman had said.

I looked at Marcus sitting at the table, his big brown eyes, his mushy brain. I grabbed the cane from where he'd leant it against his chair. He was right. I was running out of time.


Opening: Sarah Laurenson.....Continuation: Freddie

30 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Begging outside the Britney Spears mansion was never a good idea.

--Rachel


"I said you're running out of time," my brother's raspy voice spoke again. "I need that coffee stat!"

I sighed. Here we go again.

"And, remember, I'm not Marcus Willby. I'm Marcus Willby, M.D."

--Pacatrue


And then the guillotine came down. Marcus' throat gurgled; his blood gushed out; and his breath stopped at last.

I checked over the blade. Still in perfect condition. So much better than the spiked mace I had tried when Marcus turned thirteen.

I was definitely not my brother. Uh uh. No way. For one thing, my brother had only been a jerk, not a murderer. His brother, not so much.

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

I don't see where this comes from:

Just because Marcus broke his leg – in thirteen places – when he turned thirteen didn’t mean I would do the same. I was not my brother.

The only suggestion that the narrator would do the same is the "You're next" from a deranged person three paragraphs earlier. And You're next could mean anything. Make the connection clear.


before Mom came down and added her bit to the insanity. implies that she did come down and add her bit. Before Mom could come down and add... is better.

Marcus Welby being a well-known character name, you might want to use something less similar unless the similarity plays a role in the book.

150 said...

How do you break a single leg in thirteen places? Isn't that a little like folding the newspaper ten times?

Adam Heine said...

How old are these two? They're acting childish, but the narrator uses phrases like "sans milk" and "Marcus Willby, you are deranged" (which struck me as an adult thing to say).

Also, if Marcus Willby is not a nickname, it seems weird to me that his younger brother would full-name him like that. It seems like something Marcus' mother would say, not his little brother.

Matthew said...

The "Don't call me that." paragraph was a bit too purple for my taste.

Other than that, it created a nice visual for me. I would have kept reading.

Sarah Laurenson said...

She's twelve and Marcus is seventeen.

Marcus Willby is a nickname she uses because their mom always says things like 'Marcus will be a doctor' only Marcus has dropped out of high school. That's at the beginning of chapter 2 - too late? (Chapters are about 700 words long)

Hm. About the 'You're next' - it's the theme of the entire book. It actually is a 'gypsy' curse that gets passed down to her. Freddie came very close to the truth here.

'Purple'? Can you clarify that one, please?

Dave F. said...

Is this a contemporary novel or a is the story set back in the early 1970's? I don't know many 13 year olds or medical professionals who could remember Marcus Welby and it's not on DVD or tape.

I think you are trying hard to set up two characters and that's not doing justice to either character.

I also don't understand why "shuttering" his eyes, leaning his head back and doing whatever that throat think is (creaking and rattling I associate with death) implies that the audience is over. You are setting up an odd dynamic of a older brother who acts like Don Corleone with his family and his younger brother who seems to be nondescript right now.

Is Marcus actually begging on the street? I didn't understand that line at all. I might accept it as dialog between brotherly teases, but I have trouble hearing it as internal dialog which indicates it is true.

fairyhedgehog said...

I enjoyed this. There are places that are not entirely clear but I found it lively enough to want to read on and find out what it was all about.

I did falter on the word shuttered though. Oh, and I assumed the speaker was female.

Matthew said...

I'm talking about purple prose--language that is needlessly ornate and/or overly descriptive.

It's not a big deal, it's more about style and taste than anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_prose

Phoenix said...

Like Adam, I'm not getting an authenticity of voice here. I had a hard time judging the narrator's age, so glad you supplied it, Sarah. But with word choices like "sans", "deranged", "surveyed", "wispy" and "shuttered", she doesn't sound 12. And with the statement "I was not my brother", she doesn't sound like a she. I was thinking "he" throughout.

The dying act doesn't really follow from the "Don't call me" statement. And the "audience over" and "begging on street corners" references just had me confused, I'm afraid.

I was also surprised she was sweeping up bowl shards at the end of the piece. Her reaction at the beginning didn't seem to indicate anything more than scattered cereal, so I wasn't seeing the scene as clearly as perhaps you wanted me to.

Sounds like deranged runs in the family if the boy has dropped out of school and Mom is still claiming he'll be a doctor one day ;o)

batgirl said...

I had some trouble visualising this scene, partly because it starts with this disembodied cane, and then because I thought of the 'counter' as being set against the wall, and couldn't figure out where the cane was coming from. I guess it's actually a kitchen-island-counter? But then she's looking right at him, sitting on the other side, isn't she?
It's a dramatic opening, but wouldn't the narrator at least notice her brother before the cane comes down? He hasn't come in, he's already sitting there while she gets cereal. Isn't she wary at all? Was he feigning sleep before?

Overall I felt there was too much information at once, too many different impressions of the brother. He's a ruler, he's a beggar, he's crazy, he's asleep? Heck, another paragraph and he could be his sister after all.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I enjoyed this, but I did get tripped up on the whole "begging on street corners" thing. Unless Marcus has some kind of scam going that's a pretty desperate move for a contemporary teenager, particularly for someone who acts like he rules the family. That plus the formal language made me think this might historical or fantasy... but then the narrator is eating corn puffs. I was puzzled, but I'd definitely read on to find out what happens next.

mb said...

I'm going to disagree about the vocabulary. My 12-year-old would use all those words and more that would send many grownups to the dictionary. Kids who read a lot will use words they've seen in books in everyday conversation.

benwah said...

"sans milk" doesn't sound like a 12 yr old.

unless it's the kind diablo cody 12 yr old who's going to grow up snarky and talking on an ironic hamburger phone.

then again, if mom is predicting marcus's route to medicine is by dropping out of high school, maybe the family swims in strange waters.

Robin S. said...

I think benwah hit it on the head - this family 'swims in strange waters' and that's why it sounds different, because it is. Is that right, Sarah?

You and freddie are a helluva good combo!

chelsea said...

I wonder if those of us who felt the language was age appropriate viewed the narrator as female, and those who didn't viewed the narrator as male. I thought "you are deranged" sounded exactly like a twelve year old, but I also assumed the narrator was female. It feels slightly less authentic for a twelve year old male, for whatever reason.

I agree about the purple prose. (Wispy. Shuttered. Creaked. Rattled.) I found myself thinking. "Oh. Wow. Too much!"

Other than that I really enjoyed the piece. I felt that teenage "my family is f-ing crazy" angst right away. The opening with the cane struck me as very funny. I could really feel Marcus' inclination towards melodrama. I did have a slight problem with the "begging on street corners" line, but only because I have this feeling Marcus was weird long before that. I'd read on.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I didn't get that the narrator was a she. That's all right, I think.

A normal 12-year-old might not have a huge vocab, but I've long been ostentatiously verbose. In fact, I think I learned the word "ostentatious" when I was 12. So, it's on the fence.

That shuttered paragraph is too verbose. Chop it, maybe by cutting the last two sentences to "yawned."

I think there are too many fragments in the last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah! The black cane confused me too. I'd suggest "aluminum crutch" and the idea that somebody's got a broken leg will jump into the reader's mind immediately. Also think you could re-arrange the sentence to begin "I dropped my bowl . . ." to put the focus on the character and not the item (cane or crutch). Maybe you could sneak some reference to being cursed (when the bowl breaks) or have Marcus refer to "the family curse" before he says "You're next."

As did others, I pictured the "I" as a young male, but I didn't mind the elaborate word choices. I did sense an interesting character in the making.

I have a cousin Mark whose Mom would call him "Marcus Welby" and guess what? he became a doctor. So I kinda thought the Marcus Willby thing was cute, but that's just me.

Meri

Anonymous said...

I loved anon's continuation.

The black cane whapped against the counter in front of me and I dropped my bowl of cereal. At least it was sans milk.

(I did not like the word sans)

“You’re next.” Marcus let the cane tip fall to the floor. “And you’re running out of time.”

(let the cane tip fall to the floor was a bit much)

I surveyed my older brother sitting there in his kitchen chair; acting like he ruled this family; and not apologizing one bit for the mess he created. “Marcus Willby, you are deranged.”

(You could, if you wanted, clarify right here why your character calls him that by adding: I call him that because mom thinks her high school drop out will one day become a doctor. yeah right. And I am going to become the Dalai Lama - just an idea)

“Don’t call me that.” His lower lip pushed out beyond his wispy moustache. He shuttered his big brown eyes, and leaned his head back. His mouth creaked open. His breath rattled in the back of his throat.

(Did he fall asleep - that fast? One or two too many adjectives)

That was it. Audience over. Begging on street corners had seriously mushed his brain. I shook my head and swept up the mess before Mom came down and added her bit to the insanity. Just because Marcus broke his leg – in thirteen places – when he turned thirteen didn’t mean I would do the same. I was not my brother. I glanced at him again. Nope. Not even close. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the trash can.

(I like the part about mom coming down to add her part in the drama. I could have lived without the part "audience over". I went what? Skip over that sentence and and then the next and it reads much better. You can sneak in the begging on the streets somewhere else. Like Mr. high school drop out and homeless wonder is going to become a doctor.

It's an interesting start. I think the vocabularly is fine for the girl's age. I thought she was boy too but I don't think that is that big of a deal and I am sure in a few more lines the gender will be successfully clarified.

It would have been cooler if Marcus hit his sister's bowl with the cane. We drop bowls all the time at my house and they fail to shatter but hit it with a cane . . . well Marcus really would be having some mush for brains then.

vkw

Adam Heine said...

I'm not saying a 12-year-old couldn't talk like that. If I'd known the narrator was 12, I probably would have thought she was a little more verbose than normal, but not weird. But with this excerpt I had no indication of age outside of vocabulary and attitudes, which seemed conflicting.

The cane threw me. I assumed old man. "Begging on street corners" did that too (while I'm sure the narrator is using it as an expression, I took it literally; I don't think of HS drop-outs as beggars, but as burger flippers).

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow! Great feedback and suggestions. Thank you all.

Begging on the street is not an expression. It's what Marcus does in his free time.

Yes, Robin, these are not the Cleavers for sure. Insanity plays a large part here. The narrator is convinced she's the only sane one - until her family's ravings start fitting the situations.

Freddie - I love the eleven toes. May have to use that. ;-)

This is a bit tongue in cheek, a bit over the top and very off the wall. Is that enough cliche descriptions? :-)

Thanks again!

chelsea said...

There are lots of teenage beggars where I live.

Xiexie said...

I agree that maybe the cane disoriented me for a moment, but now with some context, it works.

I was a teenage beggar in the not-at-all-distant-past -- it happens for different reasons. Glad to be over that part of my life. I wanna read more.

(I love that spell check in Firefox recognizes wanna as a word!)

Sarah Laurenson said...

New New Beginning 652 - if anyone cares to take a look.


The black wooden cane swished across the kitchen island and knocked off my breakfast. I grabbed for the bowl of cereal, but it slipped through my fingers and shattered on the cement floor. Little yellow balls rolled in crazy patterns, bouncing off the pieces of bright green ceramic. At least it was sans milk.

“You’re next, Sasha.” Marcus snaked the cane back and rested the tip against the salt shaker. “And you’re running out of time.”

I surveyed my older brother – acting like he ruled this family and not apologizing one bit for the mess he created. The salt shaker inched closer, guided by his unsteady hand. I spun off my stool in disgust. “Marcus Willby, you are deranged.”

“Don’t call me that.” His lower lip pushed out beyond his wispy moustache.

Begging on street corners had seriously mushed his brain. I snatched up the broom and dustpan to sweep up the mess before Mom could come down and add her bit to the insanity. Just because Marcus broke his leg – in thirteen places – when he turned thirteen didn’t mean I would do the same. I was not my brother. I glanced at him. Nope. Not even close. Besides, there was no curse. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the trash can.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You don't need the -- around the in 13 places, and I think the Nope stuff is repeated too often in the last paragraph.

Change the cereal to cheerios or corn flakes for the sake of your description, please.

Evil Editor said...

The cereal is obviously Kix.

writtenwyrdd said...

Overall, better, but it needs some tightening and a touch more focus. The thing that most catches my attention here is the distraction of wondering exactly how old the brother is. See, the cane and moustache give an immediate impression of crochety old dude. And while you do say the moustache is wispy, which could imply young but not clearly enough for me. And if the brother is crippled (you say he's unsteady) the sort of explanation of a broken leg doesn't explain the apparent palsy.

"The salt shaker inched closer, guided by his unsteady hand" would be improved if instead of your only saying "unsteady hand" you tell us that the salt shaker moved unsteadily. that would give us a visual. For example: "The salt shaker inched closer in halting jerks, guided by his unsteady hand."

Overall, this works better to give the scene, but it's confusion as to the backstory you imply. I love what you are trying to do here, but it's not quite clear enough yet.

Matthew said...

I thought the scene was done well. It gave a nice visualization of Marcus

writtenwyrdd said...

I reread what I wrote and think I didn't say strongly enough that I do like what you did with this beginning. :) Just those couple of nitpicks that distracted me need fixing. You definitely get the curiosity roused and I'd have read on!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Much Gras! Appreciate all the comments and help!

Yum. Love me some Kix. These days though, the little yellow balls are EnviroKids Gorilla Munch.

I come from the school of - don't put trademark items in your work. At least that's what I was taught by one of my mentors.